PAGO IMMIGRATION OFFICER CHARGED IN ‘ICE’ BUST

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By La Poasa

PAGO PAGO, American Samoa (Samoa News, April 26) - The Immigration officer who was arrested on Monday in connection with a drug bust at the Post Office was charged yesterday with unlawful possession of a controlled substance ("ice") with intent to distribute.

The Immigration officer, Patrick Esera, made his initial appearance in District Court yesterday morning. He is being held at the TCF with bail set by the court at $50,000. His initial bail is $85,000.

According to the government's case, 3.1 ounces of methamphetamine ("ice") was found in three Ziplock bags that were in a bag covered with mustard. The bag was packed together with numerous candy bags and put in a mini cooler that was sent in a box via the Post Office.

Customs drug-sniffing canine named Kaiser alerted his Customs handler about the box.

According to the criminal complaint, Esera was the one who went to the Post Office to claim the box though the name on the box was identified as "Willie Fa'ataualofa," a former Immigration officer.

The government alleges that when Esera was asked about the box, he said he was expecting a car part to be sent through the mail and added that a guy named "Willie" ordered the part for him. When a Customs officer told Esera that he'll need to inspect the box, Esera insisted it was not his box.

After the drugs were found in the box, Esera then made a statement to authorities saying that when Willie was on island, they went looking for a water pump for his car. After having no luck, Esera said Willie, who was going off island, gave him his Post Office key and told him to check his mail box as he will send the water pump in the mail.

Immigration officer Ita Sataua, who went with Esera to the Post Office, told police that Esera eagerly asked him several times to stop by at the Post Office so he can check his mail while they were on the road performing their Immigration work.

Finally when they went to check the mail, Sataua said he waited for Esera for half an hour. Finally, he went to check out what was going on and found out that Esera was being questioned for drugs that were allegedly found in the box he went to claim. Sataua said he then left the Post Office and went back to the Immigration Office and informed his superiors of what had happened.

The CIIB officer who conducted the investigation in this case stated in the complaint that the amount of meth found in the box clearly indicates the drugs were for distribution rather than for personal use.

Esera's next court appearance will be next Friday, April 27 for his preliminary examination hearing. He is being represented by Assistant Public Defender Ruth Risch while prosecuting the case is Assistant Attorney General.

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